Telling the bees

There is a tradition, seemingly one that goes back hundreds of years or more, of telling the bees of family bereavements or weddings.  Sadly, my stepfather passed away recently so I have dutifully told the bees.  They didn’t seem to be too bothered, but somehow it made me feel a little better for having followed tradition in a suitably somber manner.

There are varying interpretations of the tradition. Some regard it more as a superstition where if the bees were not told of their keepers demise, they would abscond or ‘refuse’ to produce honey. (There are even tales of bees being sold without telling them of their keepers death and them becoming very poorly and then recovering once their new keeper had draped their hive with black crepe so they could mourn suitably.) Some involve very specific rituals of knocking on the hive and reciting a rhyme. Again, lots of variations here but one such was “Little bee, our lord is dead; Leave me not in my distress.” Another variation involves inviting the bees to the funeral, although it’s not clear whether the beekeeper was supposed to actually take them or if they were supposed to find their own way there.

For my part, the simple act of telling the bees was enough. I think this is something I might actually do more of – simply telling the bees what’s happened in my world, what’s upsetting or stressful, what’s exciting and good. Births, marriages and deaths, maybe birthdays and suchlike. I’m not sure it will make the bees closer to me, but in a way it might make me closer to them.

RIP – David Lloyd

I think you would have appreciated this.

Easter hols, aggressive bees and bad foundations

​​It’s Easter weekend and I’m at the end of a week off work that almost seems to have been busier than a week in work! Gardening and beekeeping jobs done, taking care of kids and driving duties (5hrs to Cornwall, yesterday- back again tomorrow) done.  

My reflections on beekeeping jobs this week are mixed. My Flow Hive is now building nicely. I probably should have fed these ladies sooner, but they’re taking feed rapidly now and expanding almost as fast. Brood on 4 frames in the brood box, and extending above the BB into the 1/2 above on 3 out of the 4.  They’re doing well.   National1 in the garden is still aggressive when entered, but seem to be a little less so when they’re left alone. They don’t seem to be cross combing under the standard frames, and are building on the 14x12s.  I’ll have to move them to the out apiary though. Immediately after if been through and closed these girls up again, my neighbour looked over the fence to offer me some young vegetable plants. The ladies didn’t like him being there right then and went for him :(. Now I owe him more honey in payment for his stings. ( To be fair though – if you look over a fence and see a fully suited up beekeeper keeping his distance, it’s probably a good bet that you should too!  ) 

National 2 was the slow grower in my out apiary and I decided to do a shook swarm there. Completely sterilised new hive kit, new frames etc, queen found and held safe while all the bees were shaken into their new home and then reunited with their queen. They were fed two days later (the two day gap giving them time to convert any possibly infected honey in their guts into wax) and are building nicely. Hopefully on my next inspection they will have built out and started brood again. Apparently, shook swarms often put egg laying into overdrive and build really strong colonies, at the same time as removing any potential build up of disease in the comb. (The comb was pretty much all old and nasty so was thrown away bar a couple of frames that I’ll melt down for wax). 

National 3 is building nicely. Nothing major to report there. 

National 4 is building cross comb and sticking frames together all through 😞. This is a problem. Partly due to me replacing part, but not all of he frames with 14×12 and giving them gaps to fill. What’s surprising is how much comb they’ve built in all the wrong places.  An extra problem is the pre built frames I got from bee-equipment.co.uk. The foundation is mounted really loosely and is falling out! This has contributed to frames being stuck together and I’ve asked for their advice on how to proceed. (No response yet). New foundation has been ordered just in case. I’ll need it eventually anyway. 

These girls are also aggressive. (Maybe because their home is falling apart?). They don’t like smoke much either. While I was lighting the smoker 12ft away from the back of he hive, 3 or 4 of the girls starting buzzing me and one for me right in the forehead before I managed to get my bee veil up. (Note to self – light smoker further away and ALWAYS wear a veil when approaching).  

Queen rearing kit has been acquired. Report to follow. At least 2 of these National hives will be requeened.  Possibly all of them.  

For now I’m enjoying my weekend in Cornwall and thanking my lucky stars my bee sting hasn’t made my face swell for my hols.    

Back soon. 😎

Update on the poorly managed hive.

So in my previous post about this hive (N1, for those actually following), I mentioned some Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) was visible.  Not loads, but as these guys were seemingly very aggressive as well I decided to treat them with oxalic acid (OA) vaporisation to counter any excessive varroa population that might be bothering them. This means I’ll be sacrificing any honey in the supers as I can’t harvest after treating with them on, but I’d rather have a strong colony of healthy bees. Plus they’ve had brood in these supers already so the wax has cocoons and bits in it. I like to keep my supers clear so they’re getting sacrificed.

OA vaporisation has now taken place twice – 6 days apart. One more to go this Friday and they’ll be done.  There’s been a fairly heavy mite fall but not so enormous I’d have expected it to be causing massive problems.  If they’re carrying DWV they are best wiped out though and three sessions of OA vaping should kill off most of them as it deals with hatching brood as well as the live flyers.  I guess this needs a blog post in it’s own right to go through that – it’ll come in time, promise.  This has also saved me having to unseal the hive after each vape treatment. I hate wasting stuff and this includes duct tape!

They seem to be getting on pretty well. Certainly very active looking from the outside, but as they’ve been moved, shuffled round, had the brood box expanded with foundation added and frames removed, and now vaporised twice, I’m not opening them up until after the final vape this week.  Hopefully the new 14×12 frames will be being built out and I won’t have excessive cross combing underneath.  (Can you tell I’m a little nervous about this).   Next post should tell all!